Sunday, November 14, 2010

NOT French onion soup

I wrote and re-wrote this recipe until I started to make it. And then I re-wrote it as I went along. The idea was to turn French onion soup upside down, and that’s what happened. Consider the source: lots of caramelized onions in a beef broth topped with crusty bread and cheese (Swiss or gruyere). My soup has all the ingredients but … well … deconstructed.

It was everything I hoped for. Fairly thick, very creamy, tasting of onion, and garnished with divine little shallot rings which were dredged in flour and deep-fried until crispy. The caramelized onion gives the body of the soup great flavor.
Now you might be wondering about those odd looking things on the side. They are fish roe sacks acquired at a large Vietnamese market I finally got back to the other day. Once a year Peter and I like to indulge in shad roe. Fried in bacon fat it is seriously unhealthy. This roe (unidentified, as no one in the market seems to speak English) tasted a good deal like shad, with a different texture. It was fun to do and something I’d thought about trying for a long time. With Peter out of town I could get away with just about anything. I don’t think I’ll do a roe recipe, it was just bacon fat, salt and pepper.

A word about the bench scraper. It annoys the heck out of me watching how much time TV cooks spend using their bare hands to get chopped ingredients into their pan. Only a few will pick up a bench scraper as an assist. Believe me (or don’t), can’t you see how I was able to pick up my onion in one swell foop. I made a single portion of this recipe, but below is for 4 servings.

NOT French onion soup
2 tbsp olive oil or vegetable oil
1 medium onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
6 cups chicken stock
cubes of fresh or day-old bread, several cups, or to taste
salt and pepper to taste
6 tbsps ricotta cheese (more or less)
½ - ¾ cup gruyere, cut into 1” pieces
4 large shallots, cut into rings
all-purpose flour for dredging
oil for frying
table salt or other fine grain salt

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat (5 on my 1-10 electric dial). Add the onion and garlic. Cook until well caramelized, about 8-10 minutes. Transfer to a food processor. Add bread and enough stock to puree everything. (Adding all the stock would be too much for the processor.)

Once pureed, put everything back into the skillet and bring to a simmer.

In the meantime, heat 2” of oil in a suitable pan for frying. Dredge the shallot rings in the flour and shake off the excess in a strainer. When the oil is hot (a drop of water flicked in will pop instantly) drop in some of the shallots (it’s best to do this in 2-3 batches). Fry until golden brown. Drain on paper towel and sprinkle with fine salt.

Once the soup part is simmering, whisk in the ricotta. Use an amount that gives you a texture you like. I made mine pretty thick. Toss in the gruyere and when it’s mostly melted (just a minute or two) serve in heated bowls and garnish with shallot and some parsley if you wish.


Jenn said...

Ok, I've said this before, I'm not a french onion soup fan...but this.. OMG it sounds really good! I honestly want to try it now!! And the possibilities with the cheese selctions.... oh, yes, I have great ideas now!! mmmm! Thanks for sharing :)
And that's so not how I pictured the fish roe sacks to look!!!!!

Pam said...

I love French onion soup and this recipe is so creative and tasty looking.

I'll pass on the fish roe sacks and take more soup please.

Mhel said...

Now I see, haha.... but the idea of pureeing it with the bread is brilliant. Its looks richer....

Poor little unidentified dead roe (sounded like we needed CSI or Bones to identify it)..

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